More gym, less wine
News items telling the public that drinking alcohol has health benefits are a regular feature of the tabloid press, and once again this week I spotted this news item this morning on my Facebook feed:
“Glass of Red Wine Equals 1 Hour at Gym, New Study Says”
My goal this week is not to ‘bash alcohol consumptionâ€™ specifically, but just to highlight how scientific facts become distorted by the time they find their way into the mainstream press.
The news article linked above clearly attempts to inform the reader that drinking red wine is so good for your heart, that itâ€™s as good as exercise. Of course, if we read down a little way, we find the message is slightly less clear…the research lead is noted as saying that a compound found in red wine, resveratrol, can have positive benefits on your heart and other muscles which may be beneficial for those who cannot exercise. He stresses that for those physically incapable of exercise, a glass of red wine may be beneficial alongside what little exercise they can manage.
So here we have a classic example of how a research er has made a suggestion that “may offer some benefit” to a specific ‘special populationâ€™ but by the time it reaches the popular press, the headline is “Glass of Red Wine Equals 1 Hour at Gym, New Study Says” with no mention of “might” or “for those who are physically incapable of exercise” and the short article is accompanied by a picture of red wine being poured, captioned with the words “Glass of red wine equals 1 hour at gym.”
Clearly, this is somewhat stretching the truth - to suggest to the population at large that they will somehow derive the same benefits from sitting at home drinking wine, as they would from going to the gym and working out for an hour. How ridiculous!
So what is this compound, resveratrol?
You can read a little about it hear on Wikipedia.
Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin of the grapes they use to make wine. In the grape skin, the resveratrol is found in much higher concentrations…so why not publish an article saying “eating grapes can benefit your heart” - that would surely be better health advice to give to the general public, yes? In a society wrestling with an obesity epidemic, would that not be more responsible journalism?
If you read the notes under the ‘Adverse Effectsâ€™ and ‘Researchâ€™ headings on that Wiki page, youâ€™ll see that resveratrol is far from being a “wonder drug to cure all our ills” as there is very little evidence to suggest it has any substantial beneficial effects whatsoever, and evidence suggests that isolating the compound and producing it as a medical supplement, had more side effects than benefits.
No safe limit
Far from suggesting that drinking red wine offers you the same benefits as working out for an hour in the gym, in reality, as more research is done, so safe limits for alcohol consumption are likely to come down. Earlier this year, new research came to light showing that there is truly no safe limit to alcohol consumption - even very moderate consumption, and the stress-busting benefits that may offer, comes with some risk.
As this article notes “The guidelines are to say there is no safe alcohol limit and even drinking small amounts could cause illnesses including cancer.”
By comparison to quaffing down a glass of red wine, an hour at the gym offers many benefits, for all people, at whatever level of physical ability they may be.
If you want to explore this subject in more depth, please visit this page and read the Mother Natureâ€™s Diet official Stance on Alcohol.
As I wrote at the start, the point of this newsletter is not to bash alcohol consumption, it is to bash bad journalism! The problem is, many people do not read the article, and very few read it and then do some research, looking for the science behind the article, or looking for either supporting, or opposing, evidence. What invariably happens is that people scrolling through their social media news stream see a picture of red wine, with the words ‘Glass of Red Wine Equals 1 Hour at Gym, New Study Saysâ€™ and the item appears to be a legitimate newspaper item, shared to a wide audience. They take it at face value, and they click ‘Shareâ€™ adding something like “See, all this exercise isnâ€™t important, Iâ€™m sticking with my red wine! All things are good for you in moderation.” I see this sort of thing every day.
- Itâ€™s not true, all things are not good for you in moderation
- Try drinking a moderate sized glass of bleach and tell me thatâ€™s good for you (no, please donâ€™t!)
- Try stabbing yourself in the leg with a moderately sized knife and tell me if thatâ€™s good for you (again, please donâ€™t!)
- Try jumping off a moderate height cliff without a rope or parachute and see if thatâ€™s good for you (and again! Donâ€™t!)
- In truth, the cliche ‘All things are good for you in moderationâ€™ is just a saying, made up and used to fit with what people want it to fit to, like having a glass of red wine every night
I have nothing against moderate alcohol consumption. if you like one or two glasses of red wine on a Friday or Saturday night to end the week, good for you, thatâ€™s OK by me. But if you fail to exercise on a regular basis, and then you drink a glass or two of red wine every night, donâ€™t go kidding yourself that itâ€™s a healthy lifestyle, and youâ€™ve got the balance just right. That just is not true.
More gym, less wine, and youâ€™ll derive far more heart-healthy benefits.
To your good health!